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New Quebec Government Cancels Tuition Hike

PAUL JAY: Welcome to The Real News Network.
I’m Paul Jay. The recent Quebec provincial election saw
a new government come to power: Parti Quebecois won with a minority government. And one of
the things that was announced earliest was there will not be a rise in tuitions, which
was the demand of the Quebec student movement. And many students and activists saw this as
a victory for that movement. But just how much did the student movement affect the outcome
of the election? Now joining us to talk about Quebec politics
is an observer—and longtime observer, I should say—of Quebec politics, Richard Fidler.
Richard’s a retired lawyer and translator living in Ottawa, and he writes at Life on
the Left. Thanks for joining us. RICHARD FIDLER: Thank you, Paul. JAY: What role do you think the student movement
played in the outcome of the election? I mean, we saw massive demonstrations in the months
leading up to it, really quite unprecedented not just for Quebec, Canada, unprecedented
for North America, I guess, if you don’t include Mexico, which I guess has seen some pretty
big demonstrations. But the demand of no tuition increase seems to have been won. And how much
did that have to do with the outcome of the election, the defeat of the Liberal government? FIDLER: Well, it was certainly one of the
ingredients. It’s hard to gauge it, of course, ’cause you don’t know why people voted as
they did. But certainly the general atmosphere in Quebec was very much one of fe rment and
so on. And there was a lot of hostility to Charest. Obviously, it wasn’t quite as great
as some of us imagined when you see the final result, a very close result between the PQ
and the Liberals, but there was a lot of hostility, especially among young people, toward Charest. It’s also indicated by the fact that two of
the left-wing parties that ran, the smaller ones to the left of the Parti Quebecois, mainly
Québec solidaire and Option national, both gained thousands of members during the campaign
itself. And Québec solidaire now has 13,000 members, which is twice what they had a year
ago. And Option national, which was formed just a year ago, has 5,000 members. And they’re
both pro-sovereingty and to the left of the PQ—Québec solidaire more than Option national.
So that’s one sign, if you want, that there were certainly a lot of students who felt
that they had to take a political stance. Now, I should say that the main, the largest
and most militant of the student groups did not take a position in the election and decided
not to participate, as such, in the campaign. The other two groups, the college students
and the university students (CLASSE, the main one, encompasses both, ’cause they’re all
tendencies, you see), they intervened in various ways, mainly by campaigning against the Liberals,
insofar as they could within the restrictions of Quebec’s electoral law. So there were some
demonstrations. Charest generally avoided the media and avoided
any situation where he would come in touch with the students. The one exception was in
his own riding in Sherbrooke, and there he was defeated, and fairly decisively. So who
knows? That may have been a factor that tipped the thing. JAY: Now, there seems to have been a shift
in Quebec politics. And I think the first, at least, sign that I saw of it—though I’m
not watching it as closely as you are, of course—but in the last federal election,
the fact that so many Quebec votes went to the NDP, which traditionally didn’t do very
well in Quebec—and for American viewers, this is a sort of a left-of-center social
democratic party. But normally those votes would have gone to Bloc Québécois in the
federal election, which is a quasi-social democratic party, but mostly a nationalist
party. And I know I made a film a few years ago in
Quebec called Never-Endum-Referendum, and at the time, there was always this kind of
conundrum that the sort of pent-up progressive movement and opinion was always kind of stilted,
’cause they were in alliance with a lot of right-wing Quebec on the nationalist issue
and could never break out on straight class and social issues. The last federal election
and the kind of abandoning of Bloc Quebecois seemed to be a break with that. And when I
asked some of the CLASSE leaders, the student organization, now, this provincial election,
how much the nationalist issue played a role for them, it was, like, zero. They didn’t
even want to talk about it. Have things really shifted so that there’s this—a more straight
class struggle taking place in Quebec now? FIDLER: It’s—I think it’s possible, yes.
I think it was illustrated in part by the PQ’s campaign. Marois, up until a few months
ago, was very much making a pitch toward what had been the right-wing ADQ, the Action démocratique
du Québec, which then merged with François Legault’s group, the CAQ, the Coalition avenir
Québec. And so then she turned around. The PQ was in crisis. They were losing members.
They’ve lost about half a dozen sitting members to sit as independents or quit politics altogether
and so on. But she took a switch early in the year, about February, and picked up some
of the themes that have been promoted and championed by the more left-wing members of
her party. And I would say the PQ probably waged a slightly more left campaign this time
than they had in many years, since before Lucien Bouchard, which takes you back almost
20 years to the time of Jacques Parizeau, for example. And that may have helped them. It was interesting that two of the key groups
in Quebec society that have been mobilized the most during the last year or so or two
years, namely, the students, but secondly, the people in all these little communities
across southern Quebec who have been organizing and mobilizing against shale gas exploration
and development in their areas, you know, they were both immediately pleased by the
result of the election, ’cause the PQ has pledged an indefinite moratorium on all shale
gas exploration and development, and, of course, a very extensive environmental review over
the next period, but with the idea that they probably will not allow it. And so that was
a victory for them, too. And, of course, the students, as you mentioned,
the first thing that Marois said was there will be no fee increase, we’re canceling the—I’m
just going to cancel by order in council the fee increase that had been legislated under
Charest’s budget. [crosstalk] she’s also committed to hold a summit on the education situation
before the end of this year, in other words, within the next three months, and she’s delegated
a top minister to be in charge of that. JAY: Well, that summit could get a little
thorny for her, because CLASSE, which is the biggest of the student organizations, I think,
certainly that represented the most of the strikers—and for those that don’t know,
there was, I think—what was it?—about 140, 150 students actually on strike at the
peak of this. FIDLER: At one time there were 165,000. JAY: Right. FIDLER: A hundred and sixty-five thousand. JAY: And CLASSE’s demands go far beyond just
a question of tuition increase. They’re talking—first of all, on the education front, their central
demand is free university education. And it kind of is part of a whole view of trying
to oppose neoliberal economics within Quebec. So when they get to that summit, the PQ’s
going to be in for something here, and they can’t afford to piss the students off. On
the other hand, where do they go? It’s not like the PQ is really that progressive. FIDLER: No, no, exactly. And, in fact, Marois
has been very adamant about the fact that she is not going to endorse free tuition.
The interesting thing is that of course the students make a very powerful appeal on this,
because free tuition was actually one of the goals of the Quiet Revolution. If you go back
to the Parent Royal Commission on Education in the early ’60s, the one that laid the basis
for the secularization of Quebec education, getting it away from the church, setting up
that whole string of provincial universities, the University of Quebec, and creating the
college system, the CEGEPs and so on, all of that was in their report, but much more.
There were demands that, for example, free tuition be implemented. They said that we
can’t do it right now, but this is something we’ve got to do reasonably soon. And here
we are, 50 years later, and we still haven’t got it. Now, it’s true: Quebec has some of the lowest
(if not the lowest) tuition fees, university tuition fees—we’re not talking about college;
there’s no tuition fee on the CEGEPs—but the lowest in Canada. But that’s because there’s
been a constant mobilization by the students. I think they’ve had six or seven general strikes
of the students since the late 1960s when the first one occurred for free tuition, among
other things. And so this has always kept the issue somewhat alive. And, in fact, there
was a freeze on tuition for quite a while, until just the last few years, when they started
to jack it up again under the Liberals—and there was actually one increase in the PQ,
I believe. But, anyway, the fact is that this is a very
live issue, and it goes back to deep roots in the Quiet Revolution. It’s an unfinished
task of the Quiet Revolution. So the students make a very powerful appeal to Quebec society
as a whole that education is a right, and if it’s a right, then it should be free, basically,
as Québec solidaire puts it (and they’re the only party that took up this demand),
from kindergarten right up to university. JAY: The debate must be going on amongst the
students about what attitude to take towards electoral politics, Québec solidaire. Where
is that at? I mean, one would think, at some point, do they not have to commit to this
if they want to, you know, have more than just some minor concessions? FIDLER: Yes, of course. Well, the students
are divided. The two more conservative federations (and I use that word advisedly, the college
students and university students who are somewhat more corporatist), they decided to engage,
as I said, in the election. They’re not, themselves, for free tuition, but they don’t oppose it.
And one of the interesting things in this whole student upsurge this spring, the Printemps
érable, was precisely the fact that the three student groups all stuck together despite
whatever differences they had among them as to the program. Now, CLASSE will go to this summit and participate
in it and put forward their demand for free tuition. They probably won’t have much support
from anyone else. The trade unions will be there. Now, they’re on record as being for
free tuition, but whether they’ll fight for it is another question. The rectors of the
University will be there, the boards of directors, which include a lot of businesspeople, and
so on, and, of course, the education minister and the department officials and so on. So
you can see the odds will be stacked against free tuition. But there will have to be some
sort of debate, and the PQ’s under a lot of pressure from the students and from its left
flank, if you want, its popular flank, to—. JAY: How long do you think this minority government
can last? ‘Cause it’s a pretty precarious—. FIDLER: Well, it’s in the hands of the Liberals
and the [k{k], as they call it, the CAQ, ’cause they have a majority between them. They took
about 58 percent of the votes, and they’ve got 69 seats between them. So they could defeat
the PQ, which has 55 seats and doesn’t have a majority, as you were mentioning. So it’s
really up to them. Now, neither of them wants an election. Nobody
wants an election immediately. We just came through one. The PQ, if it does progressive
things, can probably count on the support of the two Québec solidaire members who were
elected. But the rest of it, it’ll all be the subject of negotiations. For example,
Marois also said she wanted to repeal the draconian legislation that Charest implemented
at the end of May to break the student strike. JAY: This is the enhancing police powers and
making any number of protest actions illegal. FIDLER: That’s right, and also which would
have effectively banned the student associations if there was any kind of strike activity on
the campuses or if they tried to stage a picket line to stop other students from going in
when they are having a strike, things like that, or if there was an unauthorized demonstration—unauthorized
by the police, you see? Now, as it happens, the police were smart enough not to use that
act. Almost nobody’s been charged under it. All the thousands of charges that occurred
during the last few months were using municipal bylaws or provincial—. JAY: But with Charest gone, would the Liberals
really try to stop PQ from overturning that act? FIDLER: It’s an act of the legislature, so
although Marois was a little ambiguous about it, I think she has to go back to the legislature.
She might—you see, the student strike is over, and as you say, it’s—maybe with a
calmer social atmosphere, which will exist, probably, for a few months now, it’s possible
that some of the sitting members may either abstain on the opposition side, people who
voted for it before, or they have new members there and may not feel committed to the old
legislation, and so on. She only has to get a few more votes. She’s got her party. There’s
55. She’s got two from Québec solidaire. And she needs just a few more. So if she can
chip away a little bit at the other side, then [crosstalk] JAY: Okay. Well, we’ll come back to you and
keep following developments in Quebec, and especially we’ll come back and talk more about
the education summit. Thanks very much for joining us, Richard. FIDLER: You’re welcome, Paul. JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real
News Network.

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40 thoughts on “New Quebec Government Cancels Tuition Hike

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  2. Marois seized the opportunity to gain a majority govt in the next Provincial election by announcing action on what the majority of people wanted to hear. Repealing the $200.00 fee for health care, ending oil and gas exploration, repealing the law 78 that destroy our civil right to protest, & freezing University tuition. If her govt is put to a non-confidence vote on these issues the result will be a majority govt in the next election for the PQ.

  3. However, let’s not forget who controls any government that holds power. Also, the PQ govt has another side that divides the people where language and self-determination are concerned. They will not show this side until they get the majority that they need. Marois knows the mine field. The question on the minds of English Quebec is how long before laws are enacted that remove their right to language, schools, and services…

  4. The Chamber of Commerce is deeply embedded with politics on all sides of the table. They are the hidden animal in Quebec that controls what happens and they will continue to weigh in (dictate) govt policy, which the govt will then follow. The separation issue is a political pendulum that is used by the left right paradyne that governs this province. Money rules & will always do so until there is a real revolution. Ask Marois what the proposed money system is in a new country.

  5. Well its always Ontariens who trow up on us in every forums calling us communists, wellfare retards and nazis… Maybe if you guys had souls… lol I'm joking, its not nice to say that 😉

  6. Thanks, our courageous students deserves all the credits. They're the ones who suffered police repression and terrorism for futur generations at the cost of their session and for some even their professional futur. They are the pride of our nation.

  7. This will never happen, even if we were able to have our sovereignty. What you guys do is called "projection" you think that if we had the chance we would do what you guys would do. This is not about english canadians its about us. We dont care that people speak english or go to english schools, we only care about preserving our french culture and identity and this can work with even a very huge anglophone's community. You guys have a very dark vision of our aspirations, Its sad really.

  8. You have a very weak understanding of how culture works. You can't put in place laws that limit the rights of others in order to "police" culture in a direction you want it to go. I don't care whether YOU want to preserve culture or not, you can DO THAT AT HOME.

    You are merely in DENIAL about your "Dark aspirations", look at the rights violations that happen in Quebec already. Very sad really… Your aspirations come at the cost of other people's rights.

  9. Boo boo boo ! You are such a parody… Yeah we DEMAND that businesses serves peoples in french and sell products with french descriptions and instructions. This is such a denial of peoples civil rights…. You dont care about our culture and we dont care about your cry babies ranting and bitching, if you're not happy go live in one of the 9 english provinces, we have fought english assimilation for more than 200 years and we're not about to give up, live with it or get the fuck out !

  10. Thanks for your sympathy and understanding and yes it would be more accurate to say that we defend our french heritage and indentity. We have to enforce it cause we came close to be another english province. Before the Parti Québécois and law 101 EVERYTHING was in english. Even today my mother is an accountant and she can't find a job cause they always ask you to speak perfect english… FYI PQ stoped the tuition hike but some more radicals students still peacefully ask for free higher education

  11. I dont pretend to educate people… but yes I guess it is. Although we are a social-democraty a bit like France and other countries so we try to promote some kind of social equity and justice amongst this capitalist nightmare.

  12. Thats not so simple cause in Québec specially in Montreal there's sectors where the majority speaks english so if a business serves people only in english they'll be ok for 9 of 10 clients but the guy who speak french isnt important enough to change things… How would you feel if you couldnt be understood in your own country ? Or find a decent job ? It's not our fault if we're a minority in our country this Union was forced on us by military means, we fought it and they hanged our patriots…

  13. Lol Yes english speaking peoples are québécois too its not about racism, but we'll never become a country. Even if it was "demographicly" ( can I say that lol ) possible and its not, Canada or even the USA wouldnt allow it. The point is that Canada try and always tried to assimilate us so we have to fight to at least slow the process. English are a minority because we fight back. Why does english people cant live with 9 out of 10 provinces in english ? Why is supremacy so important ?

  14. .
    vive le Québec Libre !
    On veut un pays à nous qui pourra parler en notre nom au niveau international et ne plus dépendre de la Reine 'Angleterre et des soviets britanniques d'Ottawa !

  15. Outside "culture" ? Nothing. It's about heritage, pride, self respect and respect for our ancestors who died defending it. There isnt any finacial argument for it, in N. America french can only be a handicap for us but lots of us dont care if you'd tell me that I'd lose half my salary cause we speak french I'd still fight for it even to death if needs be. I dont see it as censorship, we dont mind people being bilingual, we just dont want it to be a vague memory like in Louisiana for example.

  16. Ce serait bien mais c'est du "wishful thinking" Mainenant c'est impossible démographiquement, ça ne s'est pas fait du temps notre cher Lévesque c'est surement pas aujourd'hui que ça se fera. Aujourd'hui y'a la moitier des québécois qui sont des tout croches que j'appelle des canadiens anglais francophones en plus des anglois et des immigrants. Pour que le Québec devienne souverain faudrait que le Monde change completement et ce n'est pas pour demain.

  17. Marois has stated she will remove the right to attend English schools in Quebec…this comes from her own mouth. Protecting ones culture should not be at the destruction of another. Is the Francophone community taught that the English community never existed in Quebec except to repress them? Since when did the people ever have a say? The English community of Quebec are not the problem. We all have a common enemy & all anyone wants to do is live their lives with respect

  18. You are wrong, I dont know where you got that but our patriots were not inspired by american's founding fathers. They were just simple peoples who fought the union that made us a minority in our own country. What they fought was Brittish imperialism.
    English canadians dont care about us and our struggle why should we care about their liberties ? If they had respect for us we wouldnt have to force them to respect us. If I go live in Ontario I will learn english, I wont ask them to speak french.

  19. Remove the right to attend english schools ? Its absolutly impossible. It can only be for immigrants and french québécois. Its may seems like fascism for our people but its a necessary evil and how easy would it be to assimilate us if it was as simple as flooding Québec with english immigrants ? It cannot apply for english speaking canadians. Laws here say that you need to have at least one english parent (father/mother) to be entitled to send your kid to an english school.

  20. Dont get me wrong there's a lot of nice people in québec that are english canadians and we like them very much cause they remind us to not generalize. English candians who care about us wont be victims of discriminations cause they will do the minimum that we ask on their own. As for the patriots the only comparisons with USA's founding fathers is fighting Brittish imperialism. As for liberties, québécois have all the liberties one's can wish for except for a few linguistic exceptions.

  21. A cœur vaillant rien d'impossible.
    Le monde est en train de changer. Déjà, le cœur de la puissance s'éloigne peu à peu des USA … Leur immonde propagande culturelle laisse de plus en plus indifférent, quand elle ne dégoute pas carrément.
    Des francophones, dont des français, arrivent par lot pour rejoindre leurs cousins au Québec et le flot n'est pas près de s'arrêter. Le Québec sera souverain bien plus vite que vous ne le pensez.

  22. Excellent job being ignorant, you seemed very skilled at it.

    "You don't care about our culture"

    When did I ever say I wanted to create laws to limit or remove your culture? I care as much about your culture as I do your beliefs… You can have them all you want, just don't force your culture or beliefs on others. Which is what Quebec law is trying to do.

    "if you're not happy go live…"

    What right do you have over mine to tell me to go live elsewhere? Why don't you go live elsewhere?

  23. "we DEMAND that businesses serves peoples in french"

    No, you demand that business be fined for what should be their free expression. You demand that culture conform to your BELIEF of what culture should be RATHER then what culture ACTUALLY is. You are merely claiming to be a victim, when you are actually the culprit of "forced assimilation" and "civil rights violations".

  24. Yes, you are seemingly skilled in ignorance with much prejudice. You know nothing about me or what side I fall on in history.

    If you think that liberties and free expression are bad, you should say so. I've clearly stated that I do not support laws that limit the rights of other, nor laws that remove their beliefs, culture or religion. You however advocate discrimination and law enforced assimilation.

    If you want to limit the rights of others for your own gain then you are a bad guy.

  25. La plupart des français votent fédéraliste et les immigrants souvant en ont rien a foutre de notre histoire. Evidement ce n'est pas tout l'monde, mai je doute que plus de 10% des nouveaux arrivants voteraient oui pour un Québec libre. Esperons tout d'même que tu aies raison 😉

  26. Lol you are so dishonest its revolting. You sound like you've been "educated" by SunMedia… If english canadians would care a bit about us, our history and our cultural issues we wouldnt have to make laws to protect ourselves. Its easy to blame those who defend themselves, typical from english canadians.

  27. Les francophones qui connaissent l'histoire du Québec sont des farouches défenseurs de la souveraineté québécoise et sont pour la libération du Québec.
    Ceux qui ne connaissent pas l'histoire ont juste besoin d'une séance de rattrapage et d'informations.
    Les fédéralistes d'Ottawa sont parmi les derniers dictateurs soviétiques encore en poste. Leur chute est proche.

  28. Yeah let us see how that works out in the next 5 years. California has some info for you if you care to learn from other's mistakes.

  29. Nope, haven't read "SunMedia".

    "Its easy to blame those who defend themselves."

    In the early 1930's when Germany was enforcing laws against Jews, similar arguments were being used in order to "protect" German culture. You would obviously argue that these actions were wrong, but you think that they admit of an exception when you are part of the group enforcing these "protective" laws. You are a hypocrite and a bad guy.

    No one is taking your culture away. You are just deluded.

  30. Don't hold your breath, Quebec.
    In US not long ago, we had, president, house and senate, all controlled by Democs yet kept following neo-con policies, in some cases got even worse.
    Just saying…
    Hope for the best.

  31. YT search, "Montreal – The English in Montreal"
    You should watch the series of videos above(history of Montreal). You'll have much better understanding of the event just took place in this video.
    I thought US was bad enough when it comes to intolerance.
    Good example of what can go wrong when they let the emotions go wild with much less concern on "what works better".

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